My name is Cody Gilfillan and I am a rising junior studying economics and computer applications. This past spring as I was contemplating what I wanted to do this summer, the one thought that kept going through my mind was, “Anywhere where I can make a positive impact”, and Social Entrepreneur Corps seemed and is turning out to be the perfect place to accomplish that. In short, we are working to give local Ecuadorians living in rural areas the opportunity to be an entrepreneur selling various “social goods” including: reading glasses, solar lights/flashlights, waterfilters, and prepackaged planting seeds.
The first two weeks have truly flown by the second I got off the airplane. As a French student in college, I felt slightly nervous living in a Spanish speaking country, but between the intensive Spanish classes in the morning to the long dinner conversations with our homestay families at night, I have been able to catch on fairly quickly. I have had two great roommates so far who are both very good at Spanish, but in two days we are traveling to a different city where we do not have roommates, so I am excited, but also nervous, to put my Spanish skills to the test!
One of the coolest things about this internship so far has been the bonding between the 25 Social Entrepreneur interns. While there are 4 of us from Notre Dame, 21 interns are from other schools. The broad range of backgrounds and skills we all have individually will collectively make our group a strong team and by the time we have left, we surely will have left a positive footprint.
Two keys lessons I have learned so far that I will continue to take with me and make a habit of are:
1) Actively listen more – By necessity, I have had to give my undivided attention to know what is going on when someone talks to me in Spanish, but I have found that it leads me to answer others with more thoughtful replies, whether answering someone in Spanish or English.
2) Everybody has a story and everybody’s story is important – If you truly show interest in someone else’s life and experiences, you can make a more meaningful connection with them and their culture/background, and you can also learn so much from them. My roommates and I have essentially taken a Latin American history class solely from our conversations at dinner with our homestay family, which has really helped to expand my worldview.
Ecuador has been an incredible experience so far and I am ready to take the skills we have learned from the SEC leaders and apply them to “The Field” for the next 6 weeks!
Kyle Dougher and I – The extreme hikers!